That one line uttered near the end of the movie, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” elicited applause and cheers from the audience. I don’t want to spoil the movie but I cheered just as loudly as everyone else.
Reviewers across the spectrum have been universally positive about the movie calling it a “1970s style spy thriller”. I just finished watching “Three Days of the Condor” starring Robert Redford who plays a major role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I was surprised at the set pieces in both movies that paralleled each other. I wonder if the writers of Captain America: The Winter Soldier intended these parallels as an homage to a “1970s spy thriller”. Give the 1975 movie a chance and pay close attention to the elevator scene. It is every bit as chilling as the similar scene with Captain America.
One thing has amazed me, and yes, encouraged me. Many of the younger movie critics commented on their expectation that in Captain America’s third movie (the second being Avengers) he would have to become cynical and dark in our modern times. These critics were surprised that the movie preserves Captain America’s basic belief in good and manages to “sell it” outright. One reviewer even commented that maybe there is “absolute good and evil after all” and found that prospect “encouraging in our dark, disillusioned times”.
I find this fascinating for our postmodern culture when we are led to believe that all truth is relative and situational. Of course, we don’t function that way in our personal beliefs. If I were to take your money because I thought it was right for me to do so, you would immediately proclaim that I was wrong. When it is inconvenient, we fall back to the default reality that our world is one of absolutes. Choosing not to believe in the law of gravity will not allow you to jump out of an elevator fifteen stories high and survive the fall with only a pulled muscle (even if you had a shield!).
Sunday before last, I was in Orlando with my former pastor, Mark Sutton. Mark and I are best friends and we have a new book coming out in September, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression”. It is an update of our previous book, “Conquering Depression” released in 2001 before 9/11 forever changed our world. Mark and I had gone to his office at First Baptist Orlando to see if we could find our former depression seminar workbook in preparation of updating our new, improved seminar to match our upcoming book.
What is interesting about our new update is the attention we have had to pay to our current social situation. Depression is almost epidemic particularly among our twenty to thirty year olds. This is not something I have made up. It is widely discussed among this age group. I attended an artistic gathering known as Hutchmoot in 2012. Two musical artists led a session on “Recovery Through Song” about their battle with depression. The room was filled with about 80 young adults all under the age of 30. When asked who among them was depressed, almost everyone raised their hands!
Why? Could it be that our cynical and dark times have taken a toll on the hope for our younger generation? Could it be that our postmodern, relativistic society had stressed out our younger generation with this “compartmentalization” spoken of in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”? This extremely important concept plagued Cap. He quickly saw that you could not compartmentalize your morality without deadly consequences. Values and virtues should seep into and permeate all of our conscious decisions. This, if anything, is the ultimate message of that movie.
Mark and I walked down to the auditorium of his church, a huge sprawling room that could easily hold 3000 to 4000 people. He wanted to show me the messages scrawled on every wall. The church was planning on renovating the auditorium and it asked its members to write testimonials of what the church family has meant to them. The walls were covered with quiet, reflective, moving and deeply personal testimonials. As we entered the auditorium, we were surrounded by music. A song boomed over the speakers and I spied two people dressed in shorts and tee shirts standing on the stage. A dozen or so people sat in the front pews. Mark had no idea what was happening but as I watched the people move with the song I realized they were practicing a drama probably for the Palm Sunday service.
Mark took me along the pews toward the opposite side of the room to show me a portrait of
Christ someone had freehand drawn on the wall. Suddenly, the music was interrupted by screams and shouts. We whirled and a crowd of people hurried onto the stage shouting “Crucify him!”
The shock paralyzed me and I watched in utter horror as a young man in shorts and tee short was shoved and kicked and banged across the stage. As the song progressed, the man was thrown to the ground. Two men made motions as if to drive nails through the man’s hands and feet. And then, the man was raised stiffly to his feet and there before us was an image of the crucified Christ. The song grew quiet and reflective and the air filled with electricity and gravitas. I felt tears pouring from my eyes, dripping from my chin. I gasped for air.
This is just a drama, I tried to reassure myself. But, in that moment, the shock of the crowd screaming; the power of the words of that song; the site of a man hanging as if from a cross hair draped across a face etched in pain was more than I could handle. Here before me was truth, killed, nailed, crucified. Is it any wonder we live in an age of relativism? We killed Truth on that day and our world; our hearts; our minds; our future is the worse for it. I felt Mark’s hand on my shoulder. He was just as moved as I was as we watched the crowd freeze and the song drew to a climax.
Like the cracking of ice under great stress, the crowd broke and relaxed. The drama director waved his hands and began giving some last minute advice and the air returned to normal. I was stunned at what had just happened and it reminded me once again of the power of drama to bring stories to life! I wiped the tears from my face and frankly felt somewhat embarrassed that a drama rehearsal would be so moving. I followed Mark out of the auditorium. He informed me that the actor who played Jesus was on the church staff and his passion was ministering to the homeless and the addicts and the broken people on the streets.
There are times as a published Christian author when the ups and downs of this industry get to me. There are times I want to throw in the towel and never put another thought on the page. There are times when a simple business decision to end a contract becomes very personal and painful. There are times when failure is all you can see in the dark shadowy confines of your “creative cocoon” and you wonder why God put this burning desire in your heart to pour out your creative thoughts onto a blank piece of paper. There are times creativity becomes a curse! And then, you see a movie like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” or you witness a moving dramatic recreation of Christ’s final act as a man on earth. And then you pause and you realize that being created in the image of God means that you must honor God’s call to be creative. No matter how that may be received. For story will always move the world when it reflects the Story that God is telling all around us. I chose to pause and ponder that in His infinite wisdom God chose this weak vessel to share bits and pieces of the grand Story that is unfolding all around us. I chose to put aside the cynicism and the sarcasm and the disillusionment that typifies our culture; to push it away and embrace the positive. To press on for the great prize that is before us!
What does this have to do with Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Steve Rogers is far from a Christ figure. But, Captain America does retain a belief in the best that we have ever been. He believes that we are whole and even the smallest lie taints our whole self. We are not the sum of our parts. We are whole, unique, entire souls who must answer for each thought and each discretion no matter how meaningless we may think it to be.
Jesus Christ died on the cross because the world around Him could not stand to look at the awful truth of our broken condition. When we are confronted with truth; perfection; ultimate good we cannot stand in its light without getting burned. So, we snuff it out and choose to live in the shadows. This Easter, take a moment and think on truth and goodness and the wholeness of your being. Dare to hope that maybe, just maybe Truth does exist in this universe and Truth can be known. And, once you know the Truth, it will set you free! When we look into the eyes of Truth, we will see our whole self in a new light. Look upon the crucified and risen Savior and your life will be changed forever.